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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 1 November 2014
SATURDAY 1 NOVEMBER 2014 7 AUSTRALIA St John's unveils master plan Australia's first bilingual Greek day school is about to undergo some big changes with the announcement of a new master plan St John's is about to imple- ment a new building master plan to see itself into the fu- ture and secure its legacy as an important school in the Greek Australian community and Melbourne's north. The master plan, announced at the college's 35th Anniver- sary Gala Ball, started to take shape in September of last year. The need to update and change the school's infrastruc- ture quickly became apparent at an open forum attended by parents, students and staff. "Feeling proud of our past, but connected to the future and being more inclusive - that's what we're aiming to achieve by doing this; actu- ally putting St John's on the map," educational researcher and secretary and director of the St John's College board, Mrs Stavroula Zoumboulis, told Neos Kosmos. Having secured funding from the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, the master plan, designed by the same archi- tects behind The University of Melbourne and Essendon Grammar, will commence with what they are calling the Science Sustainability of Learning Centre. This will see improvements to the ICT infrastructure and the refurbishment of existing science laboratories, along with the introduction of an interactive learning space. It's a move away from the tradi- tional teacher-centred class- room, affording students the opportunity to branch out. Expected to be finished and ready for students in Febru- ary 2015, the next project on the agenda is the Early Learning Centre. Essential- ly a kindergarten, the idea is a response to the growing demand in the area for ear- ly learning facilities, whilst also looking to up enrolment numbers, which have taken a knock in recent years. "The last couple of years we had stabilised enrolment. The school unfortunately in previ- ous years had lost students," says Dr Charalampos Lado- poulos, principal of St John's College. "From the time I came on board we stabilised this and have seen a small increase every year. We want to make this much bigger and we be- lieve that now with this in- frastructure we are propos- ing and will have soon, it will help us to promote the school and bring more enrolments." The master plan, which Mrs Zoumboulis says is "a ten year plan", is aiming to be more inclusive and to build the visibility of the school in the area by making use of ad- joining council land and the nearby facilities on offer for their students. The school is also thinking about the pos- sible involvement of private investors to help fund a cou- ple of initiatives. A dream of theirs is to create a privately run swimming pool on the grounds of the college, which could be made accessible to the public out of school hours. "To put it in a nutshell, what the master plan's about is try- ing to develop partnerships with the community around us to try and maximise the opportunities afforded to our students and create a bit of a community hub," says Mrs Zoumboulis. While talk around the mas- ter plan may be perceived as overly idealistic, with only part of the funding being se- cured, Dr Ladopoulos assures that the project is tangible. "The vision is that we are go- ing to make this a reality. It's not just a dream. The proof is that we start immediately, as soon as they [the students] fin- ish VCE exams," he said. Formerly Victoria's Consul General for Educational Af- fairs to Greece, Dr Ladopou- los came on board as prin- cipal in 2011 and has seen positive changes in his short three years. "Academically the school is going very well. I got it as a school sitting on a 430 position out of 550 schools. Now we are 139, in just two years basically. So we made a lot of improvements." The school has increased the support available to students, in particular those coming from abroad, having seen an influx in students arriving from Greece due to the eco- nomic crisis. Furthermore, since being founded in 1979 in Carlton, prior to its relocation to the current Preston heritage-list- ed site, the college has had to adapt to a changing local demographic. In past years a predominantly Greek area, the 2011 census showed an increase in Arabic and Man- darin speakers. Although Modern Greek and religious studies remain at the core of the school curriculum, the change in demographic has sparked the debate about in- troducing a second language. The school is also think- ing of introducing an Ameri- can inspired program, where the year levels are divided into junior, middle and high school to make the transition smoother for students. But why all these changes now? The board puts it down to a generational change. "Parents today are much more hands on, they know what they want," says Mrs Zoumboulis. "The generational change that our whole com- munity is going through is also very much felt in the col- lege. This is where our master plan and our strategic plan is trying to meet the needs and challenges of the future." An open forum will be held in the coming months, the date yet to be announced, where parents and staff will have the opportunity to dis- cuss and vote on which parts of the master plan will next be realised. ANASTASIA TSIRTSAKIS The St John's College board along with the principal of the college, Dr Charalampos Ladopoulos (L), co-chairs of the school, Bishop Ezekiel of Dervis and Bishop Iakovos of Miletoupolis, and vice principal, Mrs Denise Summers. An internal street in the new and soon-to-be-realised science building in the St John's College master plan.
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